Story and Photos by Anaya Dennis Data News Weekly Contributor
George M. Johnson, Author of The New York Times bestseller “All Boys Aren’t Blue” spoke about the current impact of the 2020 book with Journalist and Author Jumata Emill at Baldwin & Co. Bookstore and coffee shop on Jan. 23rd.
“Most days, I don’t think about the book ban, I am worried about the next book and my other projects,” said Johnson about the book, which is now at the forefront of a nationwide ban.
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” is a memoir consisting of a series of personal essays about the author’s childhood, adolescence, and college years and the trials and triumphs they faced growing up Black, male, and queer.
Johnson faced a criminal complaint in Florida with the claims that their book consisted of “pornography” and “obscenity,” according to Jill Woolbright, a member of the Flagger County School Board, who filed a report with the sheriff’s office. Woolbright eventually lost her seat on the Flagger County School Board. Johnson also said that currently, eight districts in eight states want to ban the book, and conservative groups like “Moms of Liberty” have continued to attack the work. Johnson said critics would leave hate comments on their social media accounts and other book platforms where the book can be reviewed.
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” was published as a Young Adult (YA) Book, and both authors spoke about the current biases within YA Publishing. The field is dominated by White women authors who are given the space to write queer and minority stories. The authors said that this practice in the industry often skews perceptions of queer and minority experience.
“We have lots of common ground. I am also a fan, so it was nice to be able to make connections as a reader as well,” Emill said.
Johnson who now identifies as non-binary wanted their memoir to speak to a younger generation. They wanted to tell an honest truth about growing up Black, queer, and at the time male, in America an experience they said, does not just get better, but they had to continue to fight for it.
“Blackness is the queerness of the world. The world runs on Anti-Blackness,” Johnson said, noting that within the Black community, there is also a continued lack of acceptance for those who speak on queer and Black issues.
Johnson said they also wanted the book to pay homage to Black, queer heroes like James Baldwin and Josephine Baker, so young queer individuals can easily find their role models.
“I work in a school so I really like how Johnson normalized his experience because it’s important to show kids who don’t always have a support system,” said April Defillo, a local school teacher who attended the book talk.
Johnson also spoke on how the cover illustration for “All Boys Aren’t Blue” was intentional. They wanted the cover to inspire, just like their upcoming new book “Flamboyance,” which is a fully illustrated, mixed-media book about the Harlem Renaissance that comes out this September.
“It’s okay to judge my book by its cover,” Johnson said.